Thursday, September 06, 2007

Maggie and I: Encounter with the Iron Lady

Attending a wedding at St Paul's Cathedral I saw a familiar face treading behind the newlyweds.

It was only after we exchanged pleasant 'nods' and 'hellos' that I realised I knew her... and yet we had never met.

It was former Prime Minister now Baroness Thatcher.

'Thatcher!' one of my friends screamed when they heard of the encounter.

Don't know why people do that. You just need to mention her name and they scream, Thatcher! (Well the people I usually hang round with do.)

However it was our encounter later at the reception that has since been written into the history books. It began following a failed attempt to speak to another wedding guest who was having none of it. Pleasantries with me that is.

Whether it was my attire - casual - or the video camera I had used outside the church (Sony), or me in general - George Michael chin - I don't know. Probably a mix of all of these things and more. It is true to say that this 'knight' did not like the cut of yours truly as I introduced myself.

'And who did you say you were with?' Incredulity sounded in his voice. The bride was a former client and friend of my wife's so...

He looked aghast. 'I'm....Sir William Smith!' (Not his real name.) 'I'm a Member of Parliament! And so is my wife!' he exclaimed without prompting and with a Match That air.

'Ah... really?' I responded. The woman was stood away from our conversation. She did look vaguely familiar. I later had heard that she did not like darkies and had made tasteless and controversial jokes about dead foreigners.

I was going to say that I'm with TheBigRetort but--

--'Ah, there's Margaret! he thundered, 'Must go!'

And with that I was left looking at empty space.

But there is a defining moment in every one's life when we ask: Am I Going to Be Dismissed From The Social Calendar That Easily?

Moving James-Bond-like between him and the former prime minster, I took her hand. 'Hello, M, how are you?' I said. 'Morgan, John Morgan.'

'Hello dear!' she bellowed back in that familiar voice. Softened somewhat by those senior years, "M" looked quite good all told. (Born in Liverpool, I always shorten peoples names. She knew that. I was the first to call Liz Hurley "Liz".)

Sir William must have thought the PM and I were mates because all the old windbag could muster was 'Of course!' Followed by a sound that I took for capitulation. 'Harrumph!' he went.

The daughter's a bit of a beauty and there being no better title than "Daddy", I forced her towards my target.

'Margaret, may I introduce my daughter to you?'

'Of course! Hello dear!' came Maggie's delighted and forceful reply.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the daughter, like Sir William, did not do the hello thing very well. She looked at her feet, did not respond to questions from this stranger, and pretty much ignored all the platitudes bestowed on her by the Iron Lady. So there was I a sort of envoy between the canapes.

From Toxteth to Whitehall.

Arise Sir John, knight of the round table I saw entered in the yearbook of my demolished Secondary Modern. (The building was knocked down. The yearbook was nicked.)

The PM and I fell into an easy banter. My daughter enchanting her (via me it must be said). Me enchanting me.

Baroness Thatcher: 'And how old are you?'

Daughter Stony Silence.

Me: Five.

Baroness Thatcher: 'Ah... Believe it or not I can still remember when I was your age..'

Daughter Stony Silence.

Me: 'I'm sure you can.'

Baroness Thatcher: 'And that was a long time ago!'

Daughter Stony Silence.

Me (lamely and bad idea): 'Nonsense! You don't look a day over fifty'

Baroness Thatcher suddenly goes all Belgrano. Eyes narrow to slits. What was she thinking? Creep? She was too much of a lady to say.

Well, in a BigRetort exclusive I can reveal a state secret. That hard-nosed Iron Maiden with the heart of stone is secretly a little softy, turned by a five-year-old - and Dad of course.

And what of Sir William, I hear you ask.

Banished abroad (they call it the 'countryside') with his Tory wife. where you don't see many dark faces but still hear them 'jokes'.

MAGGIE AND I. MAGGIE AND ME. MAGS AN' RAGS. I haven't yet decided on a title. But all offers duly considered.

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